Nothing says supernova meltdown like telling the kids you’re moving to a new city. Kids build their sense of comfort around familiarity: same house, same room, same bed, same sidewalk, same friends. But if you’ve made the decision to relocate, you’re going to have to break it to them at some point. We’re here to help you navigate the process of moving with children as gracefully as possible, starting by avoiding these common mistakes.
Common Mistake #1: Not telling the kids why you’re moving
You may think you’re protecting them from stress by hiding the real reason you’re moving, but kids are incredibly smart and will figure it out one way or another. It’s better for everyone if you make a plan and call a family meeting to clearly and truthfully explain why the family is relocating — to a point, of course. The kids will need to rationalize such a big change in their own way, so create plenty of space to answer their questions about travel, what they can bring, if they will see their friends again, and so on. As a parent you know by now: kids come up with the most interesting questions, and they are prone to worrying when change is imminent. Ease their worries with honesty and tenderness.
Common Mistake #2: Waiting until the last minute to tell them
Again, you have their very best at heart, but springing the move on the last minute is guaranteed to cause anxiety. They need time to process the transition away from their current lifestyle and to get excited about their new home, so start to discuss the move with them well in advance. What will your new house be like? What kinds of attractions are there in your new city? Can you show them pictures, maybe using Google Streets? There are ways to make moving fun for kids if you give them time to get excited.
If you’re moving with teenagers, waiting until the last minute so you don’t have to deal with them complaining is selfish on your part. They need time to adjust, mentally prepare, and make memories with their friends.
Common Mistake #3: Trying to do it all yourself
Do you really want to be wrangling your kids while carrying boxes of dishes or electronics down the stairs? We didn’t think so. No matter how polite and helpful your children may be, you’ll be happier if you can focus your attention on making the transition smoother and more enjoyable for the family. Leave the heavy lifting and truck organization to the professionals and hire a local moving company while you focus on remembering where you put your child’s favorite stuffed animal.
Common Mistake #4: Pretending the kids can help pack everything
In case of point #3 didn’t solidify it for you, the kids will have more fun and you’ll be more effective if you ask the grandparents, siblings, or babysitter if they’ll take the reins for a bit. They’ll have the best of intentions, we know, but little hands will inevitably make packing take longer and make you worry more with so many sharp things, stacks of boxes, and breakables strewn about your house. Although you’ve made every effort at child-proofing your move, the kids will be safer, too, if they spend their day far from the packing tape, scissors, and electrical cords, focusing instead on playing in the park. That sounds way more fun.
Common Mistake #5: Excluding them completely
It’s probably best if they stay out of most of the packing process, but you can have them help a tiny bit with packing up their own belongings. They’ll be comforted to know all of their favorite toys are packed in a box that they labeled and that their bed is, in fact, coming along for the ride (if it is!). On the other end, have your children help you set up their new room, decide where their toys will live, and find a good spot in their new bathroom for their toothbrushes.
Teenagers will often feel as though you are trying to control their life. But if you can make them feel like they are playing an important role in the process, it may help. Maybe when you go to see the house for the first time they can pick their room, or you can ask their opinion when choosing window treatments. Allow them to choose a paint color for their room, and ask if there is anything on your checklist of things to do that they feel comfortable handling. The more they feel as though they are a part of the process, the faster they will actually get excited about the move.
Common Mistake #6: Traveling unprepared
You know by now that every road trip requires a bag of kid goodies, and this one is no different. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks, some of their favorite toys, and some comfort items if your child is of napping age. This road trip may feel more stressful than usual for everyone, so having this extra bit of prepared fun will keep everyone a bit more relaxed on moving day.
Check out our blog post about moving cross country with children.
Help your kids plan a going away party with their friends. Maybe if it is in the budget, a new camera would be a great gift right about now. If they have something to look forward to, they will be able to associate the move with something positive. This could be a new dance class, popular attractions, or activities that the new school offers, but their current school does not have.
When the move is done, do not push too hard for your kids to make new friends or get involved with school activities. You can encourage them, but they will do these things at their own pace when they are ready; not when you think they should be ready.